(Matt Rourke/Associated Press)
(Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

“I myss ye earth so much/I miss my wyfe/Tis lonely out in Space!/On syche a ty-y-ymeless flyte! I’m a Rocket Catte!” (Ye Rocket Catte, by Elton John, also on an alternate timeline)

Everything about this news story is perfect.

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania was startled, gazing at a recently digitized manuscript, to notice what appeared to be a 16th-century cat in a jet pack. Even modern-day cats are seldom seen sporting jet packs, but catching a centuries-old cat in one seemed like a sign of a possible tear in the space-time continuum. Timidly, I imagine, he continued to scroll, looking for signs of telephone booths and DeLoreans.

He told the Associated Press that this seemed like a “hare-brained” idea — which is clearly false. No hares are involved at all, as far as I can see. Also, it is a great idea. Of course it is. ROCKET CATS. Is there any way this can go wrong, other than EVERY way?

Having tried to bathe cats in the past, I have difficulty imagining how you would get the jet pack ON the cat. You can barely put a cat in a sweater when the sweater is not on fire. Especially in the 16th century, when they hadn’t perfected rockets that WEREN’T attached to cats, I can see no way this cannot have succeeded BRILLIANTLY.

(Also, why would you put a rocket on a bird? Is the bird defective?)

“Explosive satchels that you’d attach to a cat or a bird” is, hands down, the greatest bad strategic innovation since Leonardo Da Vinci’s ill-fated flying machine.

Sadly this is not the gate to a cool alternative history where the great wars of the past were determined by armies of fighting cats with rockets. We can only begin to imagine how this history would have gone. Napoleon might have prevailed at Waterloo after all because Wellington’s cats decided they wanted to chase a laser pointer. “There but for an ill-timed hairball,” would be the new “All for the want of a horseshoe nail.” The Civil War would have been derailed for a few months in 1862 because the Cat Army of the Cat Potomac had eaten something funny and was busy being sick on Gen. McClellan’s carpet. In the middle of the Battle (Cat-tle?) of Ypres, several cattalions would have stopped inexplicably, sat down, and started licking themselves from a very awkward angle.

History’s great speeches would be different if the Spanish Armada had faced a cat-based fighting force. (“I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and the courage of a cat with a rocket strapped to it!”) George Washington would not have crossed the Delaware at all because his army hissed, refused to go anywhere near the water, climbed into a tree and couldn’t figure out how to get down.

It would have been amazing, is what I am getting at. Nyan cat, eat your heart out.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.